Preliminaries to a Discussion on Class – 2017

One finds a significant amount of information, in both lay publications and (of course) the careful studies on which they rely that working class Americans are faring poorly.

There are two broad aspects to this: (1) how working class Americans are faring, and (2) what this says about economic and fiscal policy at the federal, state, or local level.

A few recent accounts and studies come to mind (and these are only a few of a far larger number): New research identifies a ‘sea of despair’ among white, working-class Americans (Mortality and morbidity in the 21st century @ Brookings), The biggest beneficiaries of the government safety net: working-class whites (Poverty Reduction Programs Help Adults Lacking College Degrees the Most, @ Center on Budget and Policy Priorities), or Katherine J. Cramer’s Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker.

On the first aspect (how some are faring), evidence from any credible source, including of the left, is worth evaluating: reason compels that one address studies and their data dispassionately, analytically. In a place like Whitewater, or nearby towns, there’s much too much ‘can’t read this,’ ‘can’t read that,’ based on the idea that it’s too far left or too far right.

On the second aspect (economic or fiscal policy), ample evidence of hard times does nothing to excuse a retreat into nativism, bigotry, or the daily chumming of lies that Trump, for example, spills into the water to attract struggling Americans.

Nor does it excuse the third-tier boosterism that politicians and local publications like the Gazette, Daily Union, Register, or Banner use to hawk any project, at any public expense, on the theory that it just has to be done. The longer one considers economic & fiscal policy in a town like Whitewater, the more one comes to see that not one of these publications offers anything more than empty cheerleading. They might as well be working a long con on their communities, with their own self-promotion as a good part of the game.

There are obvious similarities between failed local strategies and national ones. SeeThe National-Local Mix (Part 2).

However difficult the times, there are useful works yet to be finished about how local notables push destructive projects (waste-to-energy), empty economic development plans (millions in Whitewater with mostly headlines to show for it), and how desperate communities fall victim to weak reasoning in the place of careful consideration.

All of this is a spur to work harder.

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